The Upsider

A Kansas City technology, media, and marketing blog by Tyler Hillsman.

KC Film Fest, Day 1: Nailbiter


Every day of the KC Film Fest, I will be reviewing the films or shorts I watched that day. The fun started today, and I was there for the official kick-off film. So without further ado…


I never want to step foot in Wellsville, Kansas. In Nailbiter, a woman and her three daughters head to Kansas City to pick up their father, a returning war hero, when a severe storm crosses their path. Forced to abandon their car in a ditch and run for the cover of a farmhouse (which is locked; they settle for the cellar), the four hold each other tight and ride out the storm. But their plans are complicated when they discover a tree has fallen on the cellar doors. Of course their cell phone doesn’t work and when they try knocking on the floor of the farmhouse above them their pleas go mysteriously unanswered. When one daughter volunteers to climb out of the cellar window, things begin to go horribly wrong, and the family realizes that their nightmares are about to come true.

This film does a very good job of spiking your heart rate, keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Although it relies on a supernatural twist, once you buy into the premise, you’re hooked. I enjoy psychological thrillers infinitely more then slasher gore flicks, and Nailbiter perfectly bridged the two genres, keeping me interested while the row behind me winced at the sight of blood. There’s never a dull moment, and all of the haunting characters are perfect villains.

From a production aspect, this film was wonderfully made. The filmmakers made the most of a small budget. Special effects (especially the tornado) and makeup were incredible, and the score did a fantastic job of building the tension. I loved seeing the familiar floor of Kansas City International during one scene, and the film credits proudly pointed out the the entire film was shot in Kansas and Missouri. (Even local weather-copter pilot Johnny Rowlands flew the helicopter for some overhead shots!) In a post-screening interview, director Patrick Rea confirmed a sequel is in the works; I hope the same team reunites for another quality production.

All in all, Nailbiter is a great horror film that can definitely compete with what the big studios are putting out. (I’d watch it over Hostel or Saw any day.) The characters are relatable, the villains are terrifying, and the premise is a unique one. If you like scary movies, this is one to see. If you don’t, stay far away.

If you missed it tonight, check out the second showing at 12:15 on Sunday at Ward Parkway 14.

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